Posts Tagged ‘organic’

22 Uses for Lemon Peels

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But what to do with all those lemon peels? Don’t toss them, put them to work.  Lemons juice is about 5 to 6 percent citric acid and has a pH level of between 2 and 3. This low pH acidity makes lemon juice a great ally in breaking down rust and mineral stains, but gentle enough to not dull finishes. There is generally sufficient juice left in used lemon halves to tackle small tasks, and it all comes with its own applicator (the rind itself).Plus, the oil in the peel is perfect for clever culinary applications, and not bad in the beauty department either. Here’s what you can do:

1. Clean greasy messes
Greasy pans? Splattered stove tops? Messy counters? If your kitchen has been the victim of some sloppy sauteing, try using lemon halves before bringing out possibly toxic chemical cleaners. Sprinkle some salt (for abrasion) on a juiced lemon half and rub on the greasy areas, wipe up with a towel. (Be careful using lemon on marble counter tops, or any other surface sensitive to acid).

2. Clean your tea kettle or coffee pot
For mineral deposit build up in your tea kettle, fill the kettle with water, add a handful of thin slices of lemon peel and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit for an hour, drain, and rinse well. For coffee pots, add ice, salt and lemon rinds to the empty pot; swish and swirl for a minute or two, dump, and rinse. Hello, sparkly.

3. Clean your microwave
All it takes is one exploding bowl of food to render the interior of your microwave officially gunked, sometimes gunked with cement-like properties. Rather than using strong chemical cleaners, try this: Add lemon rinds to a microwave-safe bowl filled halfway with water. Cook on high for 5 minutes, allowing the water to boil and the steam to condense on the walls and tops of the oven. Carefully remove the hot bowl and wipe away the mess with a towel.

4. Deodorize the garbage disposal
Use lemon peels to deodorize the garbage disposal (and make your kitchen smell awesome at the same time). It is a great way to finally dispose of spent lemon peels after you have used them for any of these applications.

5. Polish chrome
Mineral deposits on chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome make haste in the presence of lemon–rub with a squeezed lemon half, rinse, and lightly buff with a soft cloth.

6. Polish copper
A halved lemon dipped in salt or baking powder can also be used to brighten copper cookware, as well as brass, copper, or stainless steel. Dip a juiced lemon half in salt (you also use baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and rub on the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then rinse in warm water and polish dry.

7. Clean a stainless sink
Use the same method described to polish chrome, applied to any stainless sink.

8. Keep insects out
Many pests abhor the acid in lemon. You can chop of the peels and place them along thresholds, windowsills, and near any cracks or holes where ants or pests may be entering. For other ways to combat pests naturally, see 7 Steps to Chemical-Free Pest Control.

9. Make a scented humidifier
If your home suffers from dry heat in the winter, you can put lemon peels in a pot of water and simmer on the lowest stove-top setting to humidify and scent the air.

10. Refresh cutting boards
Because of lemon’s low pH, it has antibacterial properties that make is a good choice for refreshing cutting boards. After proper disinfecting (see: How to Clean Your Cutting Board) give the surface a rub with a halved lemon, let sit for a few minutes, and rinse.

11. Keep brown sugar soft
If your brown sugar most often turns into brick sugar, try adding some lemon peel (with traces of pulp and pith removed) to help keep it moist and easy to use. (For all recipes using lemon peel, try to use organic lemons–and scrub the peel well to remove any residues and wax.)

12. Make zest
Zest is the best! Zest is simply grated peel, and is the epitome of lemon essence–it can be used fresh, dried, or frozen. If you don’t have an official zester, which looks like a very fine cheese grater, you can use the smallest size of a box grater. To dry zest, spread it on a towel and leave out until dried, then store in a jar. To freeze, use a freezer-safe container. Use zest in salads, marinades, baked goods, grain dishes, etc.

13. Make Vegan Lemon Biscotti
Once you’ve made some zest, make these Vegan Lemon Biscotti cookies. Delicious.

14. Make twists
Strips of peel, aka twists, are good in cocktails, sparkling water, and tap water. Use a vegetable peeler to make long strips, or use a knife and cut the peel into long strips, cutting away the white pith which is bitter. These can be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag.

15. Make lemon extract powder
Make zest or twists (above) and dry the strips skin-side down on a plate until they are shriveled and dried up, about 3 or 4 days.  Put in a blender (or spice grinder) and pulverize into a powder. Use the powdered peel in place of extract or zest in recipes.

16. Make Lemon Sugar
You can make lemon extract powder (see above) and add it to sugar, or you can use fresh twists, put them in a jar with sugar and let the peel’s oil infuse the sugar.

17. Make Lemon Pepper
Mix lemon extract powder (see above) with freshly cracked pepper.

18. Make candied lemon peel
Orange or grapefruit peel can be candied too.  Yum. Candied peels are pretty easy to make, and can be eaten plain, or dipped in melted chocolate, used in cake, cookie, candy, or bread recipes. These recipes for candied citrus and ginger use Sucanat, the most wholesome sugar you can buy.

19. Lighten age spots
Many folk remedies suggest using lemon peel to help lighten age spots–apply a small piece to the affected area and leave on for an hour. You can also try one of these 5 natural ways to lighten age spots.

20. Soften dry elbows
Use a half lemon sprinkled with baking soda on elbows, just place your elbow in the lemon and twist the lemon (like you are juicing it) for several minutes. Rinse and dry.

21. Use on your skin
Lemon peels can be very lightly rubbed on your face for a nice skin tonic, then rinse. (And be careful around your eyes.)

22. Make a sugar scrub
Mix 1/2 a cup of sugar with finely chopped lemon peel and enough olive oil to make a paste. Wet your body in the shower, turn off the water and massage sugar mix all over your skin, rinse, be soft! You can also try any of these 5 simple homemade sugar scrubs as well.

via 22 Uses for Lemon Peels Page 5 | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

My Mom Made Me Fat

If it hadn’t been for the Big Macs that Joannie ate three times a week, she wouldn’t have gotten fat. But, if she hadn’t been exposed while in her mother’s womb to chemicals x, y and z, Joannie wouldn’t have had the propensity to get fat. And if Joannie’s mom had eaten more sensibly, both waistlines would be slimmer.First Lady Michelle Obama has, admirably, put her weight pun intended behind a campaign against obesity. But it’s a mistake to limit the remedy to better food and more exercise. Fat people most likely are programmed to become fat before taking their first sip of milk. The manmade chemicals we encounter every day are responsible for this reprogramming.Two of three U.S. adults are now classified as overweight. Type II diabetes has increased in like measure over the same decades, and so has heart disease. This is not a coincidence. These illnesses share common characteristics: they are triggered while in the womb by exposure to the same kinds of chemicals and the outcomes show up in adulthood. Scientists now call this pattern “the fetal origins of adult diseases.”The most likely culprits are chemicals now grouped together under the rubric “endocrine disrupters.” It’s been known for about two decades, though disputed by the manufacturers, that these chemicals alter the normal signaling pathways of hormones. They knock normal development off track. Bisphenol A BPA is right now the nation’s most celebrated endocrine disruptor.Pesticides are often endocrine disruptors. It’s just been discovered that a family of pesticides that’s among the most widely used in the world is connected to the three adult illnesses of obesity, Type II diabetes and heart disease. This is the family of organophosphates, concocted from petroleum with an addition of phosphoric acid.

When lab rats are exposed to these pesticides through the mothers’ diet, at a time in their development equivalent to a human baby’s second trimester in the womb, their metabolism changes in two ways: their cholesterol and triglycerides rise. These abnormal and lasting changes are exactly the major factors that predict and lead, later in life, to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular heart disease (specifically, atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty material collects along the arteries and hardens artery walls).

These changes in metabolism happen at low levels, within the levels we are uniformly exposed to, which the Environmental Protection Agency declares as “safe” but are evidently not.  The changes are the strongest when the mother rats are fed a high-fat diet.  Human babies may even be underweight at birth (and there’s an epidemic of underweight babies in the U.S.), but quickly become overweight

Humans run into these pesticides in our food and water.  Of course, children continue to be exposed once they are born and are in fact exposed more than adults because they eat and drink more in relation to their body weight and have a higher ratio of skin. The other groups of people exposed most to organophosphates and other pesticides are the same groups with the highest rates of obesity – people who live in run-down inner-city neighborhoods, the poor, and farmworkers.  Again, not a coincidence but a connection, a trigger.

Dr. Ted Slotkin of Duke University, the researcher responsible for these discoveries, found another compelling clue: exposure caused harm to the rodent’s brain, as well as its metabolism.  Once the exposed lab animal was born and started to eat at will, its consumption of a high-fat diet reduced the adverse symptoms in its brain.  As Dr. Slotkin muses, “If you’ve got neurofunctional deficits, and they can be offset by continually eating Big Macs, then you will naturally (but unconsciously) select that kind of food because it will make you feel better.”  Unfortunately, increased fat will further harm the animal’s, or human’s, metabolism.

What this means for you? Particularly while trying to conceive, during pregnancy, while nursing, and for your children: avoid pesticides, eat organic foods.

For information about endocrine disruptors, read the new booklet published by the nonprofit Learning and Developmental Disabilities Initiative.

via My Mom Made Me Fat | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

Top 12 Toxic Fruits and Vegetables

How would you like a dose of 67 pesticides with your celery? If you’re eating non-organic celery, that’s the number of pesticides you may very well be ingesting. According to the 2010 edition of Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, the top 12 pesticide-contaminated fruits and vegetables contain 47 to 67 different pesticides per serving.  This year celery is starring in the number 1 spot (up from number 4 last year), peaches moved down, and there are a few new contenders on the list.

I love Environmental Working Group (EWG), the hard-hitting and diligent nonprofit focused on public health. EWG analyzes nearly 100,000 produce pesticide reports from the USDA and the FDA–they then determine what fruits and vegetables contain the highest, and lowest, amounts of chemical residue and present the information in a handy shopper’s guide. I love (love, love) this list, it is so practical and puts the ability to eat safely in everybody’s hands. It’s a brilliant workaround.

Shoppers can use the list in two ways. If you are unable to buy organic produce, avoid the “Dirty Dozen” and instead opt for the “Clean 15.” If you can buy limited organic, purchase organically-grown items from the Dirty Dozen, and continue buying non-organic selections from the Clean 15. Of course, in a perfect world we wouldn’t be contending with pesticides at all–but in this imperfect world at least we have some tools to help navigate around the n-methyl carbamates and organophosphate pesticides. (Did you know that some of the most commonly used pesticides today were originally derived from nerve gasses developed during World War II? Fun fact. Sigh.)

Anyway, by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, you can lower your pesticide consumption by nearly 80 percent. So, at least there’s that. Here’s where to start, number 1 being the most contaminated:

The Dirty Dozen
Try to buy these 12 fruits and vegetables grown organically. But also know that many small farms can’t sustain the paperwork and fees to be certified Organic, even though they practice organic methods. If you shop at a farmer’s market and want to buy products not listed as organic, ask the vendor anyway, there’s a good chance many of the products were grown without the use of pesticides.

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Domestic blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Spinach, kale and collard greens
  9. Cherries
  10. Potatoes
  11. Imported grapes
  12. Lettuce

The Clean 15
Produce with a strong outer layer seems to have defense against pesticide contamination. Although buying only organic is the first choice, if you are unable to do so, EWG recommends these non-organic fruits and vegetables which contain little to no pesticides, number 1 being the cleanest:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi fruit
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Sweet onions

Although the government says that consuming pesticides in low amounts doesn’t harm you,  studies show an association between pesticides and health problems such as cancer, attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder and nervous system disorders and say exposure could weaken immune systems. Last month, the President’s Cancer Panel, generally not the most alarmist of bodies, stated that “our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health” and recommended giving preference to food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones.

After all, as previously mentioned, many of these chemicals are derived from chemical warfare agents repurposed to kill insects, how healthy can that be for us? The herbicide Agent Orange (developed by Monsanto, maker of the most widely-used herbicide, Roundup…grrrr) was used in the Vietnam War in the herbicidal warfare program–a form of chemical warfare meant to destroy the plant-based ecosystem, agricultural food production, and plant cover. Many Vietnamese  people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in approximately 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and 500,000 children born with birth defects. And that makes sense, why would chemical concoctions designed to kill plants and insects not be harmful to humans?

One other note: The pesticide tests used for gathering this information were conducted after the food had been power-washed by the USDA. Although some pesticides are found on the surface of foods, other pesticides may be taken up through the roots and into the plant and cannot be removed. Which is to say, washing is not an effective fix.

You can download the Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides here.  There is also a free Shopper’s Guide iPhone app available from iTunes.

via Top 12 Toxic Fruits and Vegetables | Care2 Healthy & Green Living.

The Good Food Revolution

Industrialized food harms the earth and our bodies. Thankfully, there’s a wave of passionate innovators who are growing a healthier food culture, one radish at a time.

By Jake Miller

Food is love. The first time I ever heard that was when I asked my friend Jona what in the world he was thinking cooking for 100 hungry guests on his own wedding night. Jona bought heirloom tomatoes from his neighborhood farmers’ market and served a splash of rich golden squash soup in shot glasses hand-painted to match the bridal flowers. The vegetarian menu wowed even the most committed carnivores at the party, and each course served to tighten the bonds of our shared community.

It’s easy to believe that food is love when you’re enjoying a special meal for family and friends, or when you bite into a peach that’s still warm from the sun. But how do those words apply to a society where people eat meals alone in their cars, or where whole communities don’t have access to basic fresh produce, let alone a sun-warmed peach?

On a late summer afternoon last year, my two-and-a-half-year-old son and I went to one of our favorite spots, where a series of paths wind between woods and fields, around the old grounds of a defunct psychiatric hospital on the edge of Boston’s Mattapan neighborhood. Nowadays it’s home to the Boston Nature Center and the Clark Cooper Community Gardens, where gardeners from all walks of life share tips and talk about the weather, while naturalists watch wild turkeys patrol the edges of the plots. My gregarious son hails them all, saying hello to the growers, the butterflies, the turkeys, and the vegetables ripening on the vine. It’s a little bit of magic to see this slice of the world through his eyes, where everything here belongs together and has a role to play. The scenery is beautiful, but what’s even more inspiring are the people working and living together, growing healthy food and a strong community while revitalizing the environment.

Elsewhere in Mattapan—and throughout the city, the nation, and the world—the view is not always as lovely, with epidemics of malnutrition and obesity striking within the same communities, sometimes paradoxically within the same person. Many experts say that this growing crisis is due in large part to an industrial food system that pollutes the environment while propagating cheap, low-nutrition processed food. One out of every three children born in 2000 could develop diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control tells us, and obesity rates are rising. Today’s children may be the first generation of Americans to live shorter lives than their parents.

At its best, food is love; at its worst, it can be toxic—to our health, to the environment, and to our communities.

In response, a diverse food movement has arisen, with farmers, public health activists, social justice advocates, and people who love to eat well, all collaborating to create alternatives to the industrial food system. The real beauty of this movement is that none of its strands can exist in isolation. It’s a healthy, vibrant ecosystem—a community of innovators helping to grow a new sustainable food culture.

Here are five key players who embody the diverse ideals and approaches of this movement. They’re working in cities and out in the countryside, on the left and the right of the political spectrum, with gourmets and with communities that are struggling with hunger. Some of them came to the movement when they realized that food was a key component of social justice; others came to share their love of fresh healthy food when they realized that too few people had access to it. A sense of intention connects them all—a commitment to building a food system that promotes not just efficiency and profits, but health, community, environment, and ethics.

Frances Moore Lappé

Envisioning Abundance
In 1971, Frances Moore Lappé found herself poring over books and reports in the agricultural library at the University of California, Berkeley. She felt confused. In study after study, evidence showed there was more than enough food for the world to eat, yet policy makers and pundits were talking about famine and lack.

“I was this kid trying to figure out, ‘Why is there hunger in the world when there’s enough food to make us all chubby?’” she says.

She went on to write Diet for a Small Planet (1971), a three-million copy best-selling cookbook that provided delicious recipes and showed how adopting a diet based on grains and vegetables, and eating lower on the food chain, would allow everyone on earth to have enough food.

It wasn’t the details of the diet that were the key revelation, Lappé told me in a recent interview: it was the simple realization that scarcity is a state of mind.

“If we start with a sense of lack—lack of stuff and lack of goodness—we’ve bought this caricature of ourselves, this shriveled sense of ourselves, that all we can count on is greed,” Lappé says. But in the real world, we’re all much more than that. “Look at the behaviors and traits that have been hardwired into us. Cruelty? Selfishness? Yes, but also fairness, cooperation, and creativity.”

Breaking through this illusion of scarcity—the idea that we don’t have enough to eat or that we don’t have the power to change the world—has been the constant theme of her work (which includes 16 books and co-founding the anti-hunger think tank Food First). She’s as passionate about it as ever. In her latest book, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity, and Courage in a World Gone Mad (2007), she says that under the wrong conditions—extreme concentrations of power, cultures of anonymity, and scapegoating—most of us will behave selfishly and cruelly.
The beauty of the food justice and sustainable food movements, she says, is that they create the opposite of these conditions, which allow our better selves to shine through. Social power is dispersed, anonymity is diminished by true community, and everyone has to shoulder some of the responsibility for the state of the world we live in. It’s easy to see how when we eat and garden together, shop at a farmers’ market, or become a member of a community-sponsored agricultural project, we don’t just build a healthier food system, we build a healthier democracy.

Since she started writing about food, Lappé says, things have gotten a lot worse, but also a lot better.

“We’re heading very rapidly in two directions. The dominant direction is horrific. We’ve turned food into a health hazard,” she says. “At the same time, much more than I ever could have imagined when I began, people are reclaiming their own food traditions, learning more about soil ecology. A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that if the whole world went organic we would increase food output and build a healthier environment.
“My hope is in the evidence, and the evidence is in,” says Lappé. “We have the power to make a better world.”

Makani Themba-Nixon
Seeds of Justice
“Food has always been at the heart of the struggle for social justice,” says Makani Themba-Nixon, a community health advocate. According to her, it’s all a question of “Who has access to land, to food?”

Often the answer comes down to race and wealth, Themba-Nixon says. That’s part of the reason the epidemics of childhood obesity, diabetes, and heart disease have hit communities of color particularly hard, and that’s why it’s crucial to empower these communities to find appropriate, integrated local solutions.

Themba-Nixon is the executive director of Washington, DC–based Communities Creating Healthy Environments (CCHE), a new nationwide initiative to support innovative solutions to the crisis. In its first round of funding in 2009, CCHE supported water activists in the Southwest, youth programs in Madison and New Orleans, and a program to introduce community vegetable gardens on a tribal nation’s ranch in Montana. Think of it as an innovation incubator, supporting creative strategies that other communities can learn from and build on.

As for childhood obesity, Themba-Nixon says, we won’t solve the problem without addressing the root causes—the land-use policies, predatory marketing, and underfunded public infrastructure that make it difficult for kids and families to make healthy choices in the first place. It’s easy to blame personal choice and individual character flaws for problems like obesity, which seem so private, but it’s not enough to simply ask individuals why they don’t take better care of themselves. We also have to ask, as communities and as a society, questions like, Is anyone selling fresh fruit and vegetables nearby? Are the streets and parks in the neighborhoods safe for children to play in? Is the soil in the neighborhood too contaminated for gardening? And what’s for lunch at school?

Part of Themba-Nixon’s inspiration in the fight for social justice is a love for healthy food that started in her own childhood.

“I was very fortunate to be raised by a mom who was into organic and growing your own before it was cool,” she says. “She was always baking things and sprouting things. It gave me a great appreciation for food, not just as fuel but as something sacred and alive.”

Joel Salatin
Caretaker of Creation
Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian conservative libertarian environmentalist and a “lunatic farmer.” He also calls himself a “caretaker of creation,” believing that his role as a farmer is to make the cattle, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and, most important of all, the grasses on his farm, happy, and then to stay as far out of the way as possible while nature produces abundant healthy food. He sells it all from his local food shed, to his neighbors, and to nearby restaurants.

“Pasture-based livestock and local food systems can feed the world and heal the land,” Salatin says. “These are not mutually exclusive.”

As proof, Salatin offers his own Polyface Farm, a family-owned, multi-generational 550-acre operation in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. He’s been so successful at proving his claim that he now devotes several months a year to writing and speaking about his message and methods.
Salatin believes that we were put here to nurture God’s creation, not to pillage it for maximum profit in the short term. The secret to the abundance of the farm is a carefully choreographed dance that mimics and enhances the natural food web of a grassland ecosystem. Salatin’s pigs, turkeys, and rabbits, as well as the farm’s 450 acres of woodland, all have their own dances to perform. Sunlight feeds a polyculture of grasses, cattle graze on that pasture (encouraging the grass to grow again), the cattle’s manure feeds the insects that feed the poultry, the chicken manure enriches the soil, and so on.

If the answer is as simple as letting nature work, why is our food system such a mess?

“First of all, as a culture we have been raised with a dominion mentality not balanced with a nurturing mentality,” Salatin says. “We have not had an environmental ethic, but rather an exploitation ethic. We ran through the environment much faster than we realized it was not limitless. Second, as a Western parts-oriented culture, we did not practice holism like Eastern cultures. While this made us technologically superior, we sacrificed social and environmental ethics.”

You don’t have to take his word for it, either. Salatin is so convinced of the virtue in his way of farming that his entire operation is open to the public—from the pigs aerating cow manure to the chickens and turkeys foraging in their mobile enclosures. And, as Salatin says, they’re not only producing delicious food for the local market, they’re healing the land. Since his family bought the farm in 1961, the Salatins have transformed their Shenandoah Valley home from an eroded shell of a farm into a treasury of living abundance.

“Awareness of our connection to our ecological umbilical brings decision-making integrity to our daily lives,” says Salatin. “And it allows us to participate in a cause far bigger than ourselves, with the joyful reality that we are creating the landscape our children will inherit, one bit at a time.”

Alice Waters
A Delicious Revolution
Every day, on her commute between her home and her world-famous restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, Alice Waters drives past the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School. When she first began to notice the school around 15 years ago, it looked so poorly maintained—with raggedy overgrown lawns and broken windows—that she thought it might be abandoned. In fact, she writes in her recent book, Edible Schoolyard (2008), more than 1,000 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders were studying there.

Waters is known for revolutionizing American cooking—bringing simple, exquisite flavors to life with fresh, local, sustainably produced ingredients—and helping to launch the Slow Food movement in the United States. But before she became a chef she had been a pre-school teacher at a local Montessori school and has always been a firm believer in the value of public schools. The sight of the King school on her daily commute was a sobering reminder of the harsh reality of public education for many of our underserved children. She decided to see if she could help change that reality.

In her first visit to the school, Waters outlined a wildly ambitious plan to completely overhaul the way the kids experienced food—growing their own in a garden, learning to cook it themselves, and sharing it with their classmates. Today the King school’s Edible Schoolyard is a prototype for a new kind of holistic healthy school lunch program. Kids learn to grow and cook their own food—and eat much healthier lunches, teachers incorporate the garden into their science, math, and humanities classes, and parents and neighbors build new relationships that strengthen the school and its community.

Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation has also helped launch a sister program in New Orleans, a sustainable food project at Yale University, and a network of school gardens and holistic culinary projects sprouting across the country.

In September 2009, the Greensboro Children’s Museum in North Carolina broke ground on a new garden, becoming the first children’s museum in the country to join the movement.

Each garden is created by the children to be a lovely place and to help make their school more beautiful. This isn’t a side effect of the project; it’s one of the main principles. “Beauty is a language,” Waters writes. “A beautifully prepared environment, where deliberate thought has gone into everything from the garden paths to the plates on the tables, communicates to children that we care about them.”

It’s all part of what Waters calls her “delicious revolution.” The secret is that the seemingly selfish act of wanting to eat delightful food is actually based on sharing and connecting: people cook together, eat together, and work together with their local farmers to build a healthy community.

Will Allen
Tilling the Inner City
When Will Allen bought Growing Power, a nursery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his plan was to start a small urban farm where he could grow produce for sale to the local community. That modest vision changed when a group of neighborhood kids asked him to show them how to grow their own food. What was meant to be a small for-profit business has grown into a nonprofit community food center, offering not just produce but the know-how to grow, process, market, and distribute sustainable healthy food. It’s one of the most influential forces in urban farming in the nation, if not the world.

Allen, a MacArthur Fellow and a former professional basketball player and marketing executive, has developed innovative holistic techniques for integrating fish farming into his plant-growing operation. Growing Power produces astonishing amounts of food and lush vermicompost in remarkably small spaces—25,000 plants, thousands of fish, plus laying hens, goats, rabbits, and turkeys, all on two acres of inner-city land. This oasis of fresh nutritious food lies in the heart of what Allen calls a “food desert,” but Growing Power’s message and methods are spreading far and wide, with spin-offs and partner projects around the nation and a new project launching through the Clinton Global Initiative to share the methodology in Africa.

Everything on the small city farm is integrated: The aquaponics tank not only grows fish, it also produces nutrient-rich water for the tomatoes and salad greens grown in the greenhouse. Allen’s beloved worms, which he proudly counts among his livestock, not only digest millions of pounds of food waste to produce nutrient-rich compost, they generate all the heat needed to keep the greenhouses warm and producing vegetables throughout a harsh Midwestern winter. But the soil and the food grown on the property aren’t an end in themselves; they’re the means—the groundwork upon which strong communities can come together to solve the profound problems of our food system.

“A lot of times I’ve heard, ‘Let’s go in—we have 200 vacant lots—bring some compost in and throw it down, and everyody’s going to run out of their houses and start farming,” Allen told a group of activists in Minneapolis earlier this year. “If you’re not able to engage the community, nothing else can really be sustained.”

Allen is working to overcome the all-too-common perception—especially among urban youth—that farm work must be cruel, grueling, or dirty. The 6’7″ force of nature who appears year round and all over the country in his trademark sleeveless hooded sweatshirt, has turned the gift for sales that he first exhibited at corporations like Kentucky Fried Chicken to promote something much more precious than the secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices: inspiration for a community of citizens to work together and take control of their own food system.

“I don’t build gardens with fences. Everybody’s talking about, ‘You gotta put up a fence to protect the garden.’ No. You have to engage the community,” Allen says.

He sees a future with 50 million new growers—not just full-scale farmers but families with rows of pots on their porches, students turning soil in schoolyards, neighbors sharing plots in community gardens. If it works, they won’t just be growing food. They’ll be growing stronger interdependent communities that rely on and nurture one another as surely as the tilapia and lake perch growing in Allen’s aquaponics tanks depend on the composting worms and floating watercress that complete their cycle of life.

Digital Digest
Learn more about these sustainable food projects and how you can get involved:

Rebel Tomato
No yard? No community gardens near you? No problem. Use this Web-based tool to start your own.

Edible Schoolyard
The digital home of the original Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA, with resources to help you start your own school garden project.

Ethicurean
The blog that pre-digests all the important food policy and sustainability issues for you.

Growing Power
Will Allen’s tips for growing worm compost, establishing an aquaponics greenhouse, or getting involved in the movement for sustainable community food systems.

Local Harvest
Learn more about Community Supported Agriculture, where consumers buy a share in a local farm’s production and get ultra-fresh food while providing farmers with better cash flow.

Polyface, Inc.
Get the lowdown on Joel Salatin’s model of pasture-based permaculture.

Slow Food USA
The United States branch of the international movement to support good, clean, and fair food and to preserve endangered culinary and cultural institutions in the face of fast food and fast life.

Small Planet Institute
Tools and tips for skillful engagement in democracy, including “food democracy,” from Frances Moore Lappé and daughter Anna Lappé.

The Ethical Diet
Changing the way you eat is a good start, but real change comes when we build communities that can support viable alternatives. Here are eight steps to help you expand the circle of good food in your life—beyond your plate and into your neighborhood:

• Start talking about food. Don’t stop.

• Learn where the food you already eat comes from.

• Ask at your local markets and restaurants if any of the food is locally or sustainably sourced—let them know that this is something that their customers value.

• Talk to producers at farmers’ markets to find out what the freshest and most delicious local foods are at the moment.

• Talk to your friends and family about your food traditions and values. An elaborate potluck feast—or a trip to gather you-pick strawberries—is a perfect opportunity for meaningful conversation.

• Grow something yourself and then eat it. You don’t need to launch a new community garden project to feel the power of connecting directly to the food chain. Plant a pot of basil on your porch and make one perfect batch of pesto, or capture some wild yeast and make an über-local batch of sourdough bread.

• Make eye contact with the people around you when you’re eating. At a harried family meal, this simple moment of connection can create a sense of calm. In a crowded café, it can help you build new friendships and expand your personal community.

• Add meaning to your meals by saying grace. You can thank God or simply take time to acknowledge the community of people, plants, and animals that worked together to provide your food. Infusing food with intention is also a great way to encourage yourself to eat healthier.

Learn about other sustainable food visionaries, print out tasty recipes, and more.

Jake Miller is a freelance writer based in Boston, Massachusetts. He has cultivated tomatoes in his window, basil on his porch, and worm compost under his desk.

Photo by Alamy / fotolia.com

Spring 2010

Yoga+ magazine

The Good Food Revolution

What color is Your Fat?

What Color is Your Fat?
By Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, HNC, Natural Solutions

You probably had no idea until right now that your body houses two kinds of fat–yellow and brown. Yellow fat, which serves as an insulator and a warehouse for unused or excess calories, is the type most people want to shed. Brown fat actually burns those excess calories, acting as the furnace and burning yellow fat as fuel. If you have a good storehouse of brown fat, you can seemingly eat whatever you want and not gain a pound, while the “more yellow, less brown fat” folks find losing weight difficult even as they restrict calories. To add insult to injury, being overweight can actually shut down the mitochondria (the cell’s powerhouses) in brown fat, essentially turning it into yellow fat.

Fortunately, many natural remedies can help kick-start fat burning (thermogenesis). First and foremost: exercise. Without enough exercise, it’s difficult to lose and keep weight off. In addition, you can take supplements to boost your body’s fat-burning capabilities.

Essential fatty acids. Many overweight people suffer from chronic deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs), the primary fuels that stoke the body’s thermogenic furnace. When they are in short supply, brown fat becomes inactive, which can make weight loss more difficult. Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid, is of particular concern. Normally, the body can manufacture GLA from dietary sources of another omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid–found in safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, and flaxseed oils. However, a diet high in saturated fats–much different than EFAs–combined with stress, alcohol, aging, or illness, can block this conversion, and you wind up with a GLA deficiency. Take 500 mg of GLA daily; evening primrose, black currant, hemp, and borage oils are all good sources.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs tend to accelerate metabolism while lowering blood levels of cholesterol, which can help you lose weight. Consider adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of grapeseed or organic virgin coconut oil on vegetables or in salad dressings each day. But if you have diabetes or a liver disorder, avoid MCTs entirely.

Cayenne pepper (Capsicum frutescens), ginger, and cinnamon. Used in Chinese medicine and ayurveda, these warming spices help break down fat. Cayenne helps digestion and increases feelings of fullness and satiety.

Ginseng. Studies show this ancient remedy works as a useful antiobesity agent. It decreases the release of free radicals generated by exercise and also reduces levels of appetite-stimulating compounds such as leptin. Extracts of both ginseng root and ginseng berry help stabilize blood sugar.

Green tea (Camellia sinensis). Green tea can increase the metabolic rate and stimulate fat burning. It’s rich in a variety of compounds, including theophylline, theobromine, caffeine, and polyphenols, all of which increase the body’s use of energy, inhibit the absorption of fat, and break down fat cells as they form. Consider drinking one or two cups of green tea per day.

Hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Derived from the dried rind of the tamarind fruit (Garcinia cambogia), HCA helps clear fats from the liver, suppresses appetite, and slows the conversion of carbohydrates into fat. For best results, take 250 mg of HCA three times daily, along with 100 mcg of chromium polynicotinate or picolinate, 30 to 60 minutes before each meal.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis). Traditionally consumed as a tea in South America, yerba mate acts as a stimulant to boost thermogenesis. Its stimulating effect comes primarily from a compound called mateine, a close relative of caffeine, plus small quantities of theophylline and theobromine.

via What color is Your Fat? | Healthy and Green Living.

Indoor Gardening video

This video shows an example of a great way to grow food indoors.

Veggie Trader: A Craigslist for Local Produce

Selected from Green Options

How great would it be if there were want ads in your local newspaper or on Craigslist for organic fruits and vegetables, grown in your town, by your neighbors? A new website – Veggie Trader has sprung up that offers exactly such a service–a purchasing and bartering clearinghouse for locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Veggie Trader describes itself as the “place to trade, buy or sell local homegrown produce.” The idea is simple: you register on the website and then offer to purchase, sell, or trade any manner of surplus fruits or vegetables. If you have too many tomatoes and want to see if anyone nearby has a surplus of peaches or peppers, you can log on, run a search, and find out who in the neighborhood may be willing to exchange with you.

It’s a great way to offload additional produce and exchange it for something that you might be unable to grow in your own yard, but that another gardener may specialize in growing. It’s totally free to join, and costs nothing to post an offering, or place a wanted listing.

The website only started four months ago, and is definitely still in its infancy. Despite that, they have over 6,000 people signed up so far. The folks who have registered thus far are concentrated on the U.S. West Coast in California and Oregon, but since the website is still starting out, it could very well extend to your neighborhood. You can help make the website grow by registering and offering to buy, sell, or trade for whatever produce you have or may want.

Veggie Trader has ambitions to expand to include dairy, eggs, and meat, all items that are heavily regulated. The future may hold great things for Veggie Trader, only time will tell if the site can attract enough members to gain enough momentum to make a difference in the local food movement, but we’re certainly rooting for them.

via Veggie Trader: A Craigslist for Local Produce | Healthy and Green Living.

5 Foods For Clear Skin

By Melaina Juntti, Natural Solutions

Jodi Frestedt breezed through her teenage years without so much as a pimple. While most of her peers suffered their share of embarrassing breakouts, Frestedt never gave her skin a second thought as she posed for school pictures and primped for prom. But at age 26, her face erupted in a slew of blemishes, leaving her baffled and suddenly self-conscious.

Frestedt’s situation is far from unique. Although we’d all like to think our acne days are behind us once we leave high school, breakouts affect some 54 percent of women and 40 percent of men over age 25, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. What’s more, the number of adult acne sufferers continues to rise. “I have seen an uptick in adult acne in my practice over the past 18 years,” says Valori Treloar, MD, dermatologist and coauthor of The Clear Skin Diet (Cumberland House Publishing, 2007).

As more adults head to the dermatologist, experts ponder the causes of this unwelcome condition. While possible contributors include pollution, today’s high stress levels, and newly developed prescription medications, an emerging body of research points to another culprit: the Western diet.

But wait, haven’t doctors, textbooks, and health and beauty magazines been telling us for decades that the link between food and acne is merely a myth? That loading up on chocolate bars and fried foods will not result in a face full of zits?

There is a food-acne connection
Although a famous 1969 study of chocolate’s effect on skin debunked any connection between food and skin problems, dermatologists may have dismissed diet’s impact on acne too quickly. Recent studies show that high-glycemic foods such as refined grains and processed sugars–the mainstays of a typical Western diet–may, in fact, trigger breakouts.

Here’s the problem: High-glycemic fare such as french fries, breakfast cereal, white bread, and soda boost blood sugar too quickly–and the pancreas responds by making extra insulin to bring those sugar levels down. As an unintended consequence, the insulin also signals the sebaceous glands to manufacture and secrete sebum, the oil-like substance that’s carried to our pores via hair follicles. In proper quantities, sebum is a good thing; it flushes out dead cells and keeps your skin lubricated. But too much causes the bacterium P. acnes to over-propagate and jam up the hair follicle. The result? Whiteheads and blackheads on your forehead, chin, and cheeks.

In addition, what Americans don’t eat may prove equally problematic for their skin. For instance, with 97 percent of our grain intake coming from processed rather than whole grains, we don’t get enough of the fiber, zinc, and vitamin B6 that can help curb acne. And the vast majority of US adults fail to get their daily allotment of fruits and vegetables–seven to nine servings–leading to a shortage of blemish-blocking vitamins and antioxidants. Overconsumption of omega-6 fatty acids from processed foods and vegetable oils, coupled with too little of the anti-inflammatory omega-3s found in salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds, compounds the problem, since inflammation (already implicated in heart disease, diabetes, and prostate and breast cancers) may very well damage our largest organ, the skin, as well.

On the bright side, making low-glycemic foods the heart of your diet may zap those zits once and for all. In a 2007 Australian study, researchers examined 43 male acne patients, giving one group a low-glycemic diet of whole grains, lean meat, and fish while keeping the control group on a regimen of high-carb, high-glycemic foods. After 12 weeks, the low-glycemic dieters had far fewer pimples than the control group.

Frestedt didn’t need a study to convince her that dietary shifts can trigger or alleviate blemishes. Shortly before her acne struck, she became roommates with a woman who served buttery mashed potatoes, creamy pasta dishes, rich pastries, and fatty cuts of red meat. Although Frestedt tried to avoid eating these low-nutrient foods, she just couldn’t resist the homemade fettuccini Alfredo and piping-hot rhubarb pie and her skin suffered. Topical treatments failed to clear the blemishes, but less than two months after moving to her own place, Frestedt was back to her old eating habits. And after a couple of weeks of eating steamed veggies, lean turkey, and whole-grain bread again, she noticed that her oily, irritated skin had begun to clear.

Bad-news foods
Before you declare war on ginger snaps and mac n cheese, know that food affects everyone differently–some people are wired to react more severely to acne-promoting foods than others. For instance, Patricia Janner, 54, drinks two cans of cola every day, frequently feasts on fried foods, and can’t remember the last time a pimple popped up on her face. (Of course, she’s hardly the epitome of health, even with good skin karma.) Meanwhile, Robert Heilmann, 35, says he maintains “a fairly healthy diet,” yet zits sprout on his nose and forehead on a regular basis.

“Not all acne patients are the same,” says Treloar. To determine which foods spell trouble for your skin, Richard Fried, MD, dermatologist and author of Healing Adult Acne (New Harbinger, 2005), recommends keeping track of what you eat in a food log. “Take note of certain foods or types of food you ate four to 24 hours before an acne flare-up,” he says. See how your skin reacts to specific foods and eliminate anything that causes problems.

Foods to avoid
While no across-the-board food prescription will cure acne, experts suggest steering clear of these specific foods and food categories in order to score glowing, blemish-free skin:
Refined grains. Because they are so highly processed, the majority of cereals, breads, and other flour-based foods that we love to eat lack the nutrients, namely zinc, and antioxidants our skin needs to combat acne.

Refined sugars. Candy, soda, pastries, and cookies can be particularly troublesome for those prone to acne. These indulgences spike blood sugar levels, which your body tries to bring down by producing more insulin and male hormones. In turn, these hormones prompt the sebaceous glands to work overtime, resulting in blocked pores and inflammation.

Milk. “If there’s one thing you should remove from your diet if you want clear skin, it’s milk,” says Alan Logan, ND, coauthor of The Clear Skin Diet. Although relatively low on the glycemic index, milk carries a heavy hormone load–even organic milk contains hormones because all milk comes from nursing cows. These hormones, along with a high percentage of calcium, has made milk a suspected acne trigger for decades.

Dermatologists believe milk accelerates the body’s synthesis of androgens, male hormones present in both men and women, which causes the sebaceous glands to crank out excess sebum. You can avoid milk’s blemish-inducing effects without skimping on calcium by switching to calcium-fortified soy milk and other nondairy milks and eating plenty of spinach, collard greens, and tofu.

Vegetable oils. Corn, sunflower, safflower, and sesame oils have far more omega-6 fatty acids than anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This imbalance promotes inflammation, which causes skin cells to clump together and jam pores.

5 acne-zapping foods
Now that you’ve figured out which foods to avoid, you may worry that you’ll face serious food deprivation. But rest assured there are plenty of delicious foods that also help fight acne, including:

1. Whole grains. When it comes to thwarting acne-causing inflammation, fiber-packed whole grains work like a charm. “Whole grains carry a lot of antioxidants,” says Logan. “They also stabilize blood sugar and prevent insulin spikes.” But be careful when perusing grocery store aisles for whole-grain items–crafty label lingo can make a loaf of bread or box of pasta seem like a healthy choice, when in reality it carries only a small percentage of whole grains. Logan advises checking a product’s nutrition info to make sure it’s high in fiber and low in sugar. Even better: Forget wheat and give ancient grains like quinoa and millet a try.

2. Fish. Heralded as the premiere source of omega-3 fatty acids, cold-water, oily fish are loaded with anti-inflammatory eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The Clear Skin Diet lauds oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, anchovies, and sardines as the most potent choices for blemish-free skin.

3. Green vegetables. Packed with inflammation-fighting nutrients and loads of antioxidants, most green leafy veggies contain plenty of fiber, which helps slow the rise of blood sugar after eating.

4. Purple and deep red foods. According to The Clear Skin Diet, foods containing anthocyanins are high in antioxidants and help maintain blood flow to the skin, promoting optimum cell turnover (essential for keeping pores clear). Acai, pomegranates, purple carrots, black grapes, and beets are all great choices.

5. Green tea. Among its numerous health benefits, green tea also helps keep pimples from popping up. It’s chock-full of the antioxidant catechin EGCG, an effective anti-inflammatory. But beware of bottled green tea drinks, which often contain scads of added sugar and calories.

via 5 Foods For Clear Skin | Healthy and Green Living.

How to start a garden, save money, and eat fresh!

AARP the magazine featured a great article recently, detailing a full plan for a vegetable garden in your yard. I’ve been looking for something like this all summer! This year was too busy and I spent too much time away from home to start my organic vegetable garden, but I’m armed with all the information I need to get a great start on next year!

The article talks about specific plot sizes, how to prepare your soil, keep out greedy animals, what is will all cost and how much you can save on groceries.

The author also points out how a garden can be a teaching experience:

Most vegetables are annuals, planted anew each year, but I tuck in a few alpine strawberries, too. These tiny, exquisite plants bear fruit all season and remain in place from year to year, to our grandchildren’s delight. They head for the strawberry row the minute their parents pull up in the driveway. Our sugar snap peas and cherry tomatoes are also kid magnets, and I like to think our small foragers are gleaning far more than a healthful snack. They’re learning that growing food brings joy, and that dividend is priceless.

I would add to that, not only does growing food bring joy (which it definately does) but also that it nurtures an understanding that the food you grow needs balanced care, sunlight, water, protection etc, just as people do. This lesson makes it easier to understand why it is unhealthy for people to eat and drink junk and fake foods, and to have respectful balanced care for their own bodies. What a great lesson to draw on, especially in the teen years!

Dirt Cheap Eats.

Documentary: Food Inc.

Where Does Your Food Come From?

posted by Dave Chameides Jul 28, 2009 9:02 am

I had the opportunity to see Food Inc the other night and to say that I was blown away is an understatement. The trailer below says much more than I can ever say here about this important topic but suffice it to say this is a movie that everyone should see.

Few choices in our lifestyles have as much of an impact on the planet as our food choices do. What I like about this movie is that it gives you a fair amount of facts that you probably didn’t know in order to scare you a bit but educate you at the same time, and then leaves you with concrete ideas on how you can make a difference. Also, hearing folks like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) expertly break down these hard truths into digestible pieces makes it easy to understand what is happening out there without being an expert yourself.

Have you ever considered how far your food travels to get to you and what companies must do to keep it “fresh” during that journey?

Are you aware of the amount of corn you eat (it’s in almost everything processed) and what it is doing to you and our ecosystem as a whole?

Do you know the amount of contaminants factory farms put out into our waterways?

We have been trained as a society to buy food at the supermarket, get it as cheap as possible, and not consider where it came from, who it effects, or what it is doing to us. When you think about it, the whole thing seems fairly irresponsible.

Thankfully, we all have the power to change this system. The Food inc website has some great resources to check out after you’ve seen the movie including 10 Simple Tips towards eating better which will help you start now.

Beyond just learning about the problems with industrialized food yourself, there is another reason I want you all to run out and see this movie. Since it’s a documentary, it’s in a smaller group of theaters and will not get as much exposure to the general public as it should. The more these showings sell out, the more theaters they’ll put the film in. The more theaters its in, the more people see it. Simple. So by heading out to see it, you’re not just educating yourselves, your potentially helping to bring this important message to a wider audience.

Presently you can find out where the movie is playing here, and they’ve also supplied an online listing of where they are showing the film here.

So please, if you do nothing else for the environment or your health this week, run out and see Food Inc. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve seen it and a word of advice before you head in–skip the soda and popcorn, you’ll be glad you did.

via Where Does Your Food Come From? | Healthy and Green Living.